When Was Genesis Written … And Why? (RJS)

The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins by Peter Enns is not yet another science and faith book, after all Enns is not a scientist. His greatest scientific achievement so he says in his Huffington Post column:

The best explanation for it [human origins], geneticists tell us, is that humans evolved from primates. Since my greatest scientific achievement is doing puppet shows with dissected feral cats in high school biology, I feel I have no right to contest — and I likely speak for many other evangelicals in that regard (sans puppet show).

Instead Enns has written a book coming from his expertise as a biblical scholar (Ph. D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations  from Harvard) and rooted in the conviction that we need to revisit scripture and think deeply about how to read Genesis and how to read Paul. The first chapters of The Evolution of Adam address the questions raised by Genesis regarding the origin and purpose of the creation narratives in the book. Although evolutionary biology challenges traditional Christian views of human origins, it is important to realize that this is not the sole challenge. The challenges to the traditional view of Genesis and indeed all of the Pentateuch from Genesis through Deuteronomy are both internal and external to the text. These challenges arise from Biblical Criticism, Archaeological study of the Ancient Near East, and from science.

Ch. 2 of The Evolution of Adam provides an overview of the internal issued raised by careful study of the text of the Old Testament.  Many of the internal challenges to a traditional view of the Pentateuch were noted long before either archaeology or science had any role in the discussion. Deuteronomy is a good case in point. The traditional view makes this one of the books written by Moses before the conquest of Canaan, but the book is framed as a third person account about Moses and contains references as though it is written much later. Reference like the following have raised questions:

1:1 These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan.

31:1 Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel:

34:6, 10-12 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. … Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

As early as 400 AD Jerome commented on Deut. 34 and proposed that “to this day” in v. 6 referred to the time of Ezra during the return from the Babylonian exile. Enns also points to a 12th century rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra who noted a number of issues in the Pentateuch that suggest a relatively late date for the edited text. Genesis 12:6 is one such example noted by Ibn Ezra:

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.

The specification that the Canaanites were in the land suggests that the text was edited and compiled at a time when the Canaanites were no longer in the land. According to Enns “Ibn Ezra seems to have thought that a date of authorship from around the time of David would explain at least some of what the Pentateuch says.” (p. 17)

When you read the text of the Pentateuch from Genesis to Deuteronomy what strikes you as troublesome or perplexing?

Have you ever wondered about specific passages that don’t seem to be what they are supposed to be?

The modern consensus in biblical scholarship has expanded on the realization that the text of the Pentateuch as we have it is an edited text pulled together for a purpose. Although the theories put forth have varied rather widely and have sometimes been overly skeptical of the text or have dug into the text for things that are a bit of a stretch, there is a general agreement that has emerged. Enns pulls this together:

The Pentateuch was not authored out of whole cloth by a second-millenium Moses but is the end product of a complex literary process – written, oral, or both – that did not come to a close until the postexilic period. This summary statement, with only the rarest exception, is a virtual scholarly consensus after one and a half centuries of debate. To admit this point does not in any way commit someone to one particular theory of how the Pentateuch came to its present form (and it does not in and of itself disallow some writing by Moses, hypothetically). It is only to admit that what we have cannot be explained as an early (second-millenium-BC) document written by essentially one person (Moses). Rather, the Pentateuch has a diverse compositional history spanning many centuries and was brought to completion after the return from exile. (p. 23)

The evidence for this position is summarized as follows (p, 24-25):

1. The entire Pentateuch is written in the third person and in the past tense.

Even Moses is written about in such a manner from Exodus through Deuteronomy. A few examples were given above. The parenthetical comment in Numbers 12:3 provides another example: Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. Presumably this was not written by Moses.

2. There is no claim in the Pentateuch that Moses is its author.

There is a claim that Moses did some writing – but not the entire text of the Pentateuch and certainly not the text in the form we have it today.

3. The Pentateuch contains numerous explanatory comments that reflect a time well beyond that of Moses.

Genesis 36:31 is a case in point: These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned. Surely this was written sometime after the monarchy was instituted, that is some time after Saul and David.

4. The Pentateuch assumes that the conditions present at the time of writing were in existence in ancient times.

Enns gives the example of the city of Dan referred to in Gen. 14:14 and the Philistines who did not settle in Canaan until after the patriarchal times but are referred to in Genesis 10, 21, and 26.

5. The presence of doublets (two versions of the same story) suggests a complex literary (perhaps oral) history rather than one author.

There are many such doublets in the Pentateuch – beginning with the two creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2.  Enns lists Gen 15 and 17; Gen 12, 20 and 26; Exod. 3 and 6; and Exod. 17 and Num. 20 as examples. It is interesting that Enns lists Gen 12, 20 and 26 here. I can vividly recall reading these passages many years ago, putting my Bible away and not attempting to read the OT again for years. It was abundantly clear that this was not a simple historical account. The OT was not what I had been taught. Read in small chunks or story book form there are no necessary problems – but when the text is read straight through in large chunks many of the problems are, or seem to me at least, self-evident. My biggest problems with Genesis were never science – rather they were internal to the book itself.

6. The doublets are not easily harmonized but represent significantly different points of view.

Harmonization doesn’t make much sense and the explanations seem overly contrived. Harmonization is an attempt to make the text of scripture conform to our expectations and preconceptions. It is far better, I think, to take the text as it is and listen to what it has to teach us.

7. The language of the Pentateuch reflects the state of Hebrew in the first millenium BC.

This is conclusive – to quote Enns: “The Pentateuch as we know it is a first-millenium product.” It wasn’t produced in its final form at the time of the Exodus, or even during the time of the Kingdom of Israel with Saul and David or the the kings that followed in Israel or Judah. It was edited into the final form after the return from the Babylonian exile.

There is a great deal more explanation and information in Chapter 1 and the first part of Chapter 2 of The Evolution of Adam, but this suffices to make the point. The text of the first five books of the Bible was compiled, edited, and structured for a purpose. This edited text is part of the Holy Scriptures that Paul reminds Timothy he has known from infancy:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:14-17)

We don’t need to make the text of the Old Testament into something it is not. The text we have is able, Paul tells us, to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. The text was written, compiled, and edited for a purpose – and this purpose we believe as Christians is primarily theological and ultimately Christ centered. We need to look to the text we have to understand the purpose and point of the Pentateuch and the remainder of the Old Testament. In the next post we’ll start to explore some of Enns’s views about this purpose and point of the Old Testament. For now what do you think?

Have you ever read the Pentateuch in large chunks or has your reading been confined to isolated bits and pieces at a time?

How do you make sense of the text and what attitude to you take to the text?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.

If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

  • phil_style

    For those who maintain Mosaic authorship of Deut., there is a fairly standard work-around for the issues raised by the likes of Jerome and others. They simply argue that all the “to this day” type comments were simply added later on, by scribes, and that the bulk of the textual remainder is therefore still attributable to Moses.

    Of course, the Gen 36 reference to Israelite Kings starts to undermine the above argument because it extends the editorial period right past the davidic/ solomonic era. By the time you’ve added that many hundreds of years’ worth of editing it’s a bit presumptuous to assume that one can know which bits are original and which are not without turning to archaeology and other literary/historical analysis anyways.

  • gingoro

    “It is far better, I think, to take the text as it is and listen to what it has to teach us.”

    I’m about 45% of the way though the book that I have in ebook format. I do hope that Enns deals in later chapters with exactly what he sees that the text has to teach us, especially with regard to the fall and sin. I wonder if Pete’s position is that mankind is not fallen but rather that sin is a part of how we evolved and thus intrinsic to our being. Such a position is not something, that I for one, would be willing to accept. To my mind this is the elephant in the room on this topic.
    Dave W

  • Susan N.

    “Have you ever read the Pentateuch in large chunks or has your reading been confined to isolated bits and pieces at a time?”

    Yes, and it has been quite the “slog” through Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges. Mentally exhausting, in fact. Genesis was a piece of cake, by comparison!

    “How do you make sense of the text and what attitude to you take to the text?”

    In order to preserve my faith and persevere in reading and studying the Bible, it has helped me to admit (to myself and others) that there are *things* which I just do not understand *yet*; and then, prayerfully ask for God to lead me to insight. Patience in waiting is hard for me. But, what I have found is that answers usually do come, eventually. I am finding just such answer(s) to prayer here at JC blog in this series on ‘The Evolution of Adam’ and in many previous science and faith posts. Peter Enns’ book has been very helpful to me. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

    “My biggest problems with Genesis were never science – rather they were internal to the book itself.” I concur!

  • JenG

    Gingoro – I think you will wind up disappointed. I haven’t read it yet but he warned me already on his blog that original sin etc is not really something he gets in to as it is outside the scope and intention of this book. You could try this book of essays http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0802805124

  • JenG

    For more on this, you can read Enns’ paper on Genesis authorship/editting/dating here http://biologos.org/uploads/resources/enns_scholarly_essay3.pdf

  • RJS

    JenG and gingoro,

    This book isn’t the end of the discussion. Nor does it or can it cover all of the issues in depth. I haven’t finished the book yet – but we need to (or at least I need to) think through the material Pete presents and his argument and then move on to the next issue. The nature of sin is a big one, but it needs to be grounded in a good understanding of the bible and of what the bible is prepared to tell us. At least this is the way I am approaching the questions at this time.

  • gingoro

    RJS A good deal of Pete’s book does not bother me as I already did not hold to a literal A&E who were biological parents of all humanity. Plus I do not see the early parts of Genesis as literal history although that does not mean that there is not some historical background that Genesis obliquely refers to. Pete provides a good basis for the position I already held. But I do think that at some point in humanities development God began to deal with mankind and that we choose to disobey God’s guidance. “Let me do my own thing and don’t bother me!”

    JenG I expect to be disappointed by this book having read prior material where Pete explained his point of view.
    Dave W

  • David Himes

    It seems to me that Genesis makes the point that man came into existence at the will of God. It’s less about how man came into being and more about God being man’s origin. I think the details are less significant, than the fact that we exist at the will of God.

  • Chris Criminger

    Hi everyone,
    1) Problem – Well, someone other than Moses wrote about Moses’s death.

    2. Beauty – I think every great teaching of the whole biblical canon can be found somehwhere in its initial or seed form in the book of Genesis!

  • Richard Jones

    Mark 12:26

    So it was called the “Book of Moses” but Jesus was just going along with a cultural fiction among primitive people?

  • Tom Howard

    Although I believe RJS has referenced Dr. John Walton’s two books on Genesis….it is those books that have given me a perspective that I have wanted for years, but was never able to assemble for myself and Enns is providing “cover” as I rethink these issues. It does re-frame the reading of the Bible, especially the purpose and point of them.

  • http://twitter.com/brettagib Brett G

    It seems to me that many in conservative evangelical circles have an issue because it seems that Jesus thought Moses wrote the Pentateuch. I think of verses like Mark 12.26 where Jesus calls Exodus (or maybe the entire Pentateuch?) “the book of Moses.” Or in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus has Abraham refer to the law as “Moses” (Luke 16.29).

    And then you have Paul in places like Romans 10 who says literally that “Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law…” (10.5) or “Moses says…” (10.19).

    I think a major issue for Christians in insisting on Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is that the NT appears to believe Moses wrote it, the NT is unable to err, therefore God has revealed to us that Moses wrote it. It’s just a literalistic, biblicist hermeneutic. So what about that?

  • Rick

    Richard #10 and Brett #12-

    There is a school of thought that believes it is not uncommon in such literature to have the kernel of teaching come from one individual, and then have additional contributors, yet the initial, or best known, individual still gets assigned the credit for the whole.

  • http://www.djfick.blogspot.com Daniel J. Fick

    I am not a scientist, so I weigh in with trepidation (I also have yet to read Enns’ book), but are we talking about Macro-evolution or micro-evolution (adaptation)? If we use the scientific method, are we able to actually prove Macro-evolution? If not, how do we claim that this is the most plausible notion for the existence of biological lifeforms?

  • Ann

    I read the entire Pentateuch last year for a class I took on the Old Testament and as hard as it was to trudge through it all, in the end it was a rewarding experience. For example, I had never realized that the story of Noah and the flood is actually 2 stories weaved together. The thing that struck me as important was the fact that an editor had the choice of including only the one story or weaving them together seamlessly (which he didn’t do), but choose instead to include them both, inconsistencies and all.

  • Joe Canner

    Daniel #14: Your question is a bit off the topic of this particular post, but I would briefly respond as follows:

    Macro-evolution and micro-evolution are not scientific terms; they are just different aspects the same phenomenon. While the evidence for small changes are easier to observe in real time, there is still plenty of evidence that these small changes accumulate over long periods of time to make large changes. The fossils hint at these changes, but the most convincing evidence is genetic. There are many places where you can read about this evidence. If you want explanations written by Christians, try Ken Miller, Darrell Falk, and Francis Collins, for starters.

    The particular issue in Enns’ book, the evolution of man, is also driven by genetic evidence, namely the finding that the great genetic diversity in man today could not have originated from a single couple 6000 years ago. Perhaps someone else can provide a reference to the specific research relevant to this claim.

  • phil_style

    @Richard #10,
    If Jesus thought that “the book of Moses” was written in it’s entirety by a character within that book who’s own death is recorded within that book then what does that matter, and a book that refers to other events that happened hundreds of years after this character’s reported death why does this matter?

    There are plenty of things Jesus and Paul and all the other new testament people did not know. There are plenty of things that they, in all likelihood, though to be true that weren’t. The shape of the earth would be one. The fact that some of the “stars” they saw were actually planets would be another. Do we think that Paul would be surprised to find out that we would still be waiting for Jesus to “return” 2000 years later?

  • Amos Paul

    @ Richard,

    Why are you assuming that the ‘book OF Moses’ means the book written entirely BY Moses? Rather than, say, the book about Moses. Or deriving from stories of Moses. Or whatever?

    It seems like a leap to assume that. What’s your basis?

  • Kristin

    I just finished reading the Pentateuch actually as part as a ‘read through the Bible plan.’ What struck me was the profound shift in tone from Deuteronomy into Joshua. The best way to describe it is that the Pentateuch has a clear overarching narrative with God as the main character. Everything after that reads to me as historical play by play with Israel as the main character.

  • Norman

    May I remind that the Jews had a penchant for attributing authorship to famous biblical characters? The book of Enoch written during the 2nd and 3rd century BC was hardly written by a human named Enoch as described in Genesis 5. The Psalm of Solomon, the Book of 4Ezra and we could keep going but the point should be clear that prudent scholarship takes these Jewish attitudes into play and we ignore them to the detriment of understanding the ancient Jewish approach. They simply had a different set of rules than we do and it was likely well understood by the audience. Could you imagine the author/authors of Enoch thinking they were pulling something over their audience when miraculously segments of that writing just happened to appear every few decades out of the blue? Enoch didn’t exist before the second or third century BC and I don’t think the religious scribes of the times would have fallen for such a ruse. No, it was accepted procedure to introduce Jewish Literature under the guise of ancient historical name sakes.

  • Norman

    phil_style… “Do we think that Paul would be surprised to find out that we would still be waiting for Jesus to “return” 2000 years later?”

    Absolutely; he would think we were apostates since he expected Christ to come in Judgment within the lifetime of “some” of those Christ prophesied this event to. :-)

  • AHH

    In contrast to a couple of comments, I like that Enns limited his scope and did not try to deal with all theological issues concerning the “Fall” and so forth.

    Enns is not a professional theologian, he is a Biblical scholar with expertise in the Old Testament and in the use of the OT by NT writers. This makes him well qualified to write about the genre and original meaning of the story in Genesis 2&3, about what the rest of the OT says about Adam (which is basically nothing), about how the Adam story was treated in Jewish literature at the time of Jesus, and about how Paul drew on the Jewish interpretive traditions of his time in his use of the OT when talking about Jesus.

    That’s a lot of important stuff already, and I have no problem with Enns stopping at the point where his expertise stops and leaving it to theologians to work out how to talk about the problem of universal human sin in light of the insights Enns gives on the Biblical witness. Prof. Schneider, recently “retired” from Calvin College, is one who has recently made such an attempt. As did Barth in his own way.

    Enns shows us that, while affirming the inspiration of Scripture, one is not compelled by the Biblical witness to affirm a literal Adam. How that might interact with different Christian options for viewing the nature and origin of sin is an important question, but one that he leaves to others.

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    With regard to the New Testament, Kenneth Bailey once said that the early church did not so much give the books their authority but rather surrendered to the authority that was evident in the books. Authorship (at least during the first couple of centuries) was not a significant consideration. The issue was the wide acceptance and authority individual books had within the community Jesus had established.

    Similarly, when we move to the Old Testament, the issues isn’t so much about authorship. The issue is that after generations of living with these books, the worshiping community identified these works as authoritatively communicating God’s mission and his relationship to his chosen people. The big question is how was that authority understood to work? How did it shape and form their lives?

    We are too quick to narrowly impose models of “just the facts,” reporter-on-the-scene genres by an eye-witness reporter (say, Moses) as the only, or at least heavily preferred, way of reading things.

    There was Star Trek spoof a few years ago called “Galaxy Quest.” Aliens (the Thermians) have received our TV transmissions. They perceive stories like “Gilligan’s Island” to be about actual events. They don’t have the concept of fiction. “Galaxy Quest” is one of the TV shows they have seen. The movie is about the mishaps that occur when the Thermians solicit the help of the Galaxy Quest actors, who the Thermians perceive to be authentic, in defeating an evil enemy.

    There are a variety of genres involved in the Bible and I suspect very little of it is dispassionate fact reporting. But it is much more than just a collections of nice stories with moral twist. We need to be more discerning than just presuming the Bible to be a strict recounting of historical facts by eyewitnesses. I think such presumptions should be known as the Thermian heresy. ;-)

  • AT

    I am open to a range of views on authorship, although I’m not sure whether theories like JEPD is any better (in evidence terms) than Moses as primary author theory. Where i draw the line is this: I don’t believe humans created any of the biblical documents with the purpose of deception, e.g. Using a false name to create a false sense of grandeur, labelling a book prophesy to fake God’s work (I am open to it being culturally espected and taking on another genre role)…I am open to authorship being expected culturally….but I feel that authorship (and ‘mythological’ content) taking on a deceptive role cannot fit with a high view of inspiration (even within an ‘incarnational’ approach which I hold to)…

  • G. Kyle Essary

    AT,
    Although there is scholarly agreement that the author(s) used sources, there is little support for JEDP anymore in the guild, due to its inability to explain the data and the vast differences between scholars on what makes up J1, J2, P1,P2, etc.. In fact, there is little concensus on anything and I think here Enns overstates his case. Yes, there are doublets, different names for God and the rest (Enns arguments are largely the same as those made 50-150 years ago), but there is also such a complex literary and structural unity that the question now is whether or not we can separate the Pentateuch and Deuteronomistic History.

    Some now believe that the Ennateuch (first nine books) were all put together together post-exile. The more you study the compositional and literary strategies in the Pentateuch the more you see that Deuteronomy cannot be separated and the more you study the DTH, the more you see that Joshua-Kings cannot be separated from Deuteronomy. For beginning to understand the shaping of the Pentateuch, I would suggest three authors who go well beyond Enns in both expertise and familiarity with the Pentateuch (and Pete would surely agree): David Carr (especially his latest), Michael Fishbane and for an evangelical Sailhamer (especially his book “The Pentateuch as Narrative”)

  • RJS

    Kyle,

    I don’t think that Pete is making much of a claim for any specific set of sources in this book – he lays out the JEDP format, but also calls it “a bit quaint in today’s scholarly atmosphere.” As I read this chapter all he really seems to claim is consensus that the authors and editors used sources and that the final product as we have it was edited into shape at a relatively late data (post-exile).

    The second part of this chapter – where he presents an argument for how and why the text was shaped may be a bit more controversial.

    I looked up some of the authors you’ve listed – I may need to read some of this. It looks interesting. There are not enough hours in the day though.

  • Tom R

    RJS,
    I agree with you. It also seems that Pete is giving a historical perspective and not the latest thinking (which is unsettled anyway). The lack of consensus is sometimes used as an argument for Mosaic authorship. I don’t think Kyle would support Mosaic authorship.

  • Richard Jones

    #17 Phil do you want go into detail on what you believe Jesus “did not know”? Here is my answer: NOTHING

    #18 Amos the reference to the “Book of Moses” is historical/traditional and was understood clearly by those whom Jesus was addressing. There is no reason for us to take it to have any other meaning than that — UNLESS you are Peter Enns, that is.

  • Fish

    Exactly. Jesus had to speak in terms his audience would understand.

  • RJS

    TomR,

    Thanks, I didn’t mean to imply that Kyle was arguing for Mosaic authorship. Your clarification helps.

  • Norman

    I agree with RJS in #26. From my reading Pete was giving background and kept the options open while laying out some of the approaches.

  • JohnM

    Amos Paul #18 – No, it doesn’t seem at all like a leap to assume ‘book OF Moses’ means ‘book written by Moses’, rather it seems quite the natural thing to suppose, especially in the context of the passage as well as other things Jesus said about Moses. Other suggested meanings might be plausible but anyone suggesting them would have the the greater obligation to offer a basis.

  • TJJ

    I am comfortable with early sourcing, later editing. Post exile editing seems about right given the internal evidence. I take some of the sourcing in Genesis 1-11 to be very early and ancient, and I hold on to the notion Moses wrote/edited significant portions, that were later edited and reworked again.

    The most interesting thing to me has always been where in some places the editing seems to seek to smooth out, explain, harmonize. But at other places, no attempt to do that is made at all, the discrepencies are jus left there in the text.

  • phil_style

    @Richard #28, so, you believe that Jesus knew everything (there was nothing he did not know)? This compromises his position as a human being, and it is contrary to Jesus’ own statements that there were things he did not know (Matthew 24:36).

    What about when he was a baby? Did he know everything then?
    What about as a fetus inside Mary’s body?

    I’m interested how the entire information of the universe fitted into that first century brain. Each piece of information requires space, and there is limited space in a human brain.

  • JohnM

    Phil_style #34 – Your last paragraph comes close to compromising His position as eternal God. Whether or not Jesus was always aware of everything it is an odd thing to suppose the one who healed the sick, calmed the storms, and raised the dead would be limited by the physical capacity of a human brain.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I’m with phil_style, and the longer I contemplate the question of what Jesus knew the more I believe he did not have any knowledge that any other first century person would have, except his wisdom in god and man (does that make sense?).

    I am reminded of a lecture I heard NT Wright give, and he was asking the question, why didn’t Jesus get down off that cross? He said his best explanation is because he couldn’t.

    I don’t think Jesus was magical, though I do feel his relationship with god enabled his to tap into things that none other can.

  • phil_style

    @ JohnM,
    “Whether or not Jesus was always aware of everything it is an odd thing to suppose the one who healed the sick, calmed the storms, and raised the dead would be limited by the physical capacity of a human brain”

    Why is that odd? If I pierced him, would he not have bled?

  • James

    “Have you ever read the Pentateuch in large chunks or has your reading been confined to isolated bits and pieces at a time?”

    Yes, several times. When I read narrative, I don’t read it like a textbook or an encyclopedia, I read it like a screenplay and have a visual imagination such that when I recall certain narratives I see the scenes, not the text on the page. This has been my habit since the first time I read through as a teen and new Christian. Honestly, I think it may well fit the purpose of Genesis more than textual criticism.

    Numbers still bogs me down, but even the first time I read Lev. I was captivated it. Weird, I know, but I was a teen and I didn’t get hung up on doctrine, I was reading and picturing the ceremonies, impressed by the reverence of some, glad to be alive under grace now instead with others. I did wonder why some things even needed to be said (as an adult, I unfortunately now realize they do, sad as that is).

    As to what we should take from it… One characteristic of the OT that fascinates me is the lack of moral explanation for many of the events/struggles/wrongdoings in its narratives. Rarely does the text say “And that was sinful, don’t do that.” Instead, it is intrinsic in the resulting consequences, the greater picture of the character (or lack thereof) of the men and women, and the context that helps you understand without it being spoon-fed that certain acts/behaviors/attitudes are against the will of God. It teaches morality and faith more by observation than by theological discourse, and does so in a way that speaks louder and more powerfully than a thesis.

  • AHH

    Following the comments about what Jesus knew …

    Hasn’t the church historically considered it to be the heresy of Docetism to say that the incarnated Jesus did not have a finite human mind (along with all other human qualities except sin)?

  • phil_style

    @AHH, yes, it has been historically considered heresy to deny Christ a humanly finite mind. But hey, what’s a little heresy among friends? ;)

  • Kenny Johnson

    Have you ever read the Pentateuch in large chunks or has your reading been confined to isolated bits and pieces at a time?

    I actually read the entire OT in about 60 days a couple years ago. It certainly did raise a lot of questions for me… and prior to that I had really only read bits and pieces here and there.

    When a lot of these topics came up on JC in the past, they made me nervous. But I honestly think it was because I held some form of Bible-idolatry. I believed that God could only speak through this text in a literal historical genre. I had a hard time thinking even that perhaps the scribes or editors could have been inspired.

    Some of this stuff is still a bit challenging to my faith, but I’m glad I can do this in “community” with you all. The different perspectives in the comments are helpful.

  • JohnM

    phil_style #37
    “Why is that odd? If I pierced him, would he not have bled?”

    Does that mean the Word made flesh was in the flesh limited to knowledge that could be gained by sensory perception and allowed by physical brain capacity? I don’t see why it would have to mean that, just like I don’t see Jesus, though a man, prevented from performing miracles by the ordinary laws of nature.

  • C Fred Smith

    I just don’t see the problem with Genesis 12, 20, and 26. In 20:13, does not Abraham say “wherever we go, you are to say I am your brother”. So of course it happened more than once. Sure, they were “caught” the first time, but we all know that human nature is such that a lie (or half truth), that “works” (and this one did, in the sense that they were not killed, is often told again.

    That Isaac would do the same thing only indicates that he is his father’s son. We think we are very different from our parents, but the truth is we tend to see the world as they did, and to solve problems in the same way they did.

    So, these “parallel” accounts actually serve to strengthen the position that Genesis gives us a real story about real people who lived and (mis)behaved in ways similar to ourselves.


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